Cosmically fast-paced and wildly imaginative, this debut novel is a perfect potion of magic and suspense~~~~~~~~~~~~~Review~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood. Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.
City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.
Rating: 4 ½ Stars
“It was a Hieronymus Bosh painting come to life, and she couldn’t escape it.” ----- --Sarah Weston, page 161.Yes, City of Dark Magic is out there.
Yes, there's a lot in here. There’s Beethoven, the blind child prodigy, the unstable rock star prince,the agent senator, the neurotic professor, a background cast straight out of Saturday Night Live, past loves, current fucks, bizarre murders, cover ups, conspiracies, Nazis, alchemy, drugs, all which is shrouded in secrets and lies set up on the historically rich and bloody ground of Prague with magic in the air. Yes, there's a lot left hanging - like someone started weaving a rug and just stopped half way but it feels like the right time to break it off. It must be continued in the sequel. Yes, it’s fantastical delusional and barely recognizable as reality. I’m pretty sure that’s the point. Yes, the ending has that cheesy action adventure romance aspect. Yes, there’s a lot of convenience going on here - like overhearing the right things at the right times, deus ex machina, etc. Yes, it’s not the deep character exploration, development and progression that I want. And yet.. And yet... I loved it. I can’t really defend my enjoyment of this book (except that I hate slut shaming for good reason). You love it or hate it and I’m in the former camp. I really can't wait to read the next book(s?). Where is the information about the next book? Pretty Please share with me? Is there going to more than just one sequel? Not without it's flaws or problems, and clearly not everyone's cup of tea. I liked the characters (especially Nico and Sarah), the history, the mystery, the setting, all the mixed up elements and laughed several times. I liked seeing and figuring out all the tangled webs they weave. It's really different than most books out there and doesn't really stick to the conventions of its genres. It was nothing like I expected and love this because of that. It’s a fantastical, bizarrely funny, acknowledged naughtiness (Flyte’s term for guilty pleasure). The things I loved about this book is often the very things others hated about it. As for Sarah: I liked her, her voice and perspective. I understood where she was coming from and why she did the things she did. She’s not the mild-mannered librarian or the quietly shy overburdened college student. It’s a very refreshing ride tagging along in Sarah’s mind. I don’t mind her sex life. It’s irritating to have her trashed and slut shamed. It’s an interesting contrast between the so called feminist woman Senator (who hasn’t shown any position that would demonstrate she’s a feminist and only cares about her advancement) and Sarah (the sex positive, gender role defying woman who doesn’t or hasn’t been called a feminist). I'm a bit sad that several characters I liked were left in the background, like Shuziko. I was a bit perplexed at the sudden unexplained switch in demeanor in the prince. I didn't notice while reading unfortunately the use of stereotypes ( the Hispanic butler, the Gay Guy, the Italian guy) in this book. It's a convenient slacked ass way to do the characters and I'm disappointed in myself for getting too wrapped in the story to notice. While it didn't diminish my enjoyment, it should've at least pinged my radar.
Some of the problems come from people expecting something different based on the blurb and the genres. Now that sucks feel mislead like that, but a lot of the fun for me was taking the unexpected ride that felt off kilter like I’m tripping balls. This is not the typical rom-con book. The romance and sex are not the typical safe sappy Hallmark movie kind. There’s all of four sex scenes in it, encompassing a couple of paragraphs and sentences but while it’s quantity is low, the quality is certainly unconventional. I have no problem with indiscriminate or wild sex.
This is not the typical Urban fantasy. There's no spells, or wands, or vamps or shifters or portals to magical escapist lands. It's contained (so far) to alchemy and magical properties for a few things. The magic is kept tight and narrow, much not explored or understood because that storyline is the overarching storyline for the series. That's going to be hunted and explored more in the next book I'm sure. It also isn't the typical time travel, since those novels deal with movement along a line or a loop. There’s just no way to define it without spoiling it. There is also the spy novel element, which I don't think is typical either. While there's spies, espionage and cover ups it's present day action is happening to cover up previous actions regarding CIA Vs. KGB. We know the reasons who and why and often how they did it because the villain is a sporadic narrator at times. The beginning is about Sarah and crew trying to figure out the puzzle we know the answer to, then it's trying to figure out how to stop the spies plans. (Okay, that sounds more spy than the book feels, but it still isn't' typical due to the other elements and genre mashing.) There's the spy thread dealing with the villain and their goals. There's the thread about the alchemy and the hunt for a magical item. They cross but not in the way you'd assume. I was a bit miffed at the comparisons to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I was like, “It couldn’t have been that badly written! My taste doesn’t suck that bad....does it?” I tried to think of another book to compare it too and write out all the ways they are different. Here’s the thing, it’s like Dan Brown’s work regarding the hunt for a historical secret magic conspiracy but I find these characters far more interesting. There’s also some great quotes and moments: Page 55,
Even the espresso wasn’t totally keeping her brain activity centered on the logical left side. That old loony right side kept saying “for a thousand years, people have lived and died on this very spot.” But then she imagined that the right side of her brain was speaking in a pirate accent (“on this very spot - argh”), and she felt normal again. This place was just a pile of old stones. Pretty stones arranged in intriguing ways, but just old stones.Page 349,
“And outdated wiring,’ her father would have added.
“I think you’ve really captured it,” Sarah commented, looking around. “It’s like if Ted Nugent had a Masterpiece Theatre porn fantasy.”Things That Did Bother Me: The previously mentioned stereotypes, which I unfortunately didn’t notice while reading. Only after trying to write my review about the varied cast did that observation hit me. I had problems with a certain decision in the end regarding important documents and not copying them, which seems so fucking stupid and really rubs me the wrong way. I hope there’s a trick up someone’s sleeve to fix it. It seems like such a convenient cop out to the real outcomes of discovering such information. What’s the point of discovering it and bringing it into this tale, if we don’t get to see the fallout from it? Then there’s a moment where something get left on a porch to miraculously cease to exist once the characters placed it down. The object served it’s purpose and if it was still on the porch, it would have to be moved or something. Yet it’s never mentioned Yeah, not cool for the writers to just conveniently drop it off in a black hole. I’m sure the cast of characters would be interested in that black hole, that’s for sure. They may step in it. This incident of the evaporating instrument is the only time I’ve noticed this kind of thing in City of Dark Magic but still...boo! While everything is left hanging, I do have worries about how the toenail thing is going to be explained. I'm actually really worried how all if it will unfold in the next book. View all my reviews
“Awesome,” said Shuziko. “That’s kind of what I was going for. Class with ass.”